Bite into Chico culture rain or shine

Illustration by Kayce Tynan Photo credit: Kayce Tynan


Wandering through the Saturday Farmers Market in Chico is like stepping into a different world where the sights and smells of fresh fruits, vegetables and handmade products are amplified.

The market is a Chico treasure that brings an array of people to its tents every Saturday throughout the year, rain or shine. Located at the Downtown Chico Municipal parking lot on Second and Wall Streets, the market is always buzzing with activity from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Vendors come from all over the north valley to show their products which range from the sweet-smelling bouquets of flowers by California Organic Flowers to the bountiful bowls of fresh fruit from Harpos Organics.

It is a sensory overload that makes you want to come back time and time again. The sounds of laughter mingling with a harp player’s cord progression is something that is not commonly found. Taking a stroll through the various vendor booths and down the rows of tents is a favorite Saturday morning activity for many people who call Chico home.

“I like the fresh food and the friendly locals,” said Julia Sjodin, sophomore marketing major.

Among the vendor booths is one that is unique— Air Plant Addict. Air plants are just that, they don’t need to be planted in soil and take nourishment from air and light watering.

It’s owner and lover of all things green is Brenda Bergland. She hasn’t always been in the air plant industry. For 25 years she was a hairstylist but decided to root herself into the horticulture lifestyle.

Bergland came to the Chico farmers market scene about two years ago when she started at the Thursday Night Market with miniature gardening, but decided to make the switch to air plants and bring her business to the Saturday market.

“[The market] gives a chance to people to sell the products that they grow themselves,” Bergland said. “You don’t have to spend money on a brick and mortar store; you can grow your products in your backyard.”

This homegrown feel is felt throughout the market, from stands that offer almond milk to deliciously sweet peaches that are grown on farm steps from the outskirts of Chico. It is an experience that sums up the laid-back and friendly atmosphere that envelops Chico like a nice warm blanket.

What most students enjoy about the market is that they can buy fresh, local produce, which is a step up from their typical ramen bowl.

“You don’t have to go to a store to buy your produce, and it’s at a reasonable price,” said Danielle Antwi, junior criminal justice and theater major.

Another booth found among the mix of stands is Isern & Sons Extra Virign Organic Olive Oil. From the olive orchards of Spain, Pedro Isern’s father started the family business by first working in the fields. After years of working for others, Isern decided to start his own business and in 2000, began the Isern company. In 2008, they brought their product to the Chico farmers market and haven’t looked back.

“The community is very friendly,” Isern said. “Look around you, the market brings people together.”

From college students seeking a great deal on tie-dye shirts and green beans to parents and their young ones looking for honey, the Saturday market manages to blend the unique culture of Chico to create a vibe that cannot be found anywhere else.

Madeline Merlic can be reached at [email protected] or @MMerlic on Twitter.